Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Many migrants to Europe come from Eritrea which is at peace but imploding - World Tribune | World Tribune

The aggressive opportunism of Eritrean President Isayas Afewerke is close to an implosion, but the prospect exists that the 69-year-old former revolutionary will lash out in a final attempt to reassert some regional relevance and to preserve his government.
Certainly, he has done nothing to build an economic base in his Red Sea littoral state.
Eritrean migrants arrive in southern Italy. / AFP / Getty

Eritrean migrants arrive in southern Italy. / AFP / Getty
The crisis for Isayas can be seen in the upsurge of Eritreans fleeing across North Africa and into Western Europe, adding to the swelling tide of illegal immigrants there. The situation is far worse than is seen in international media and intelligence reporting.
The outpouring of Eritreans comes at a time when Eritrea is ostensibly at peace, unlike Syria, where conflict has driven the population outflow.
The UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) reported in November 2014 that, during the first 10 months of that year, the number of Eritrean asylum-seekers in Europe from Eritrea had nearly tripled: to nearly 37,000. Some 22 percent of “boat people” arriving in Italy during that period were from Eritrea, the second largest number of asylum-seekers after Syrians. The numbers of Eritreans crossing into Ethiopia swelled to 5,000 in October 2014. More than 216,000 Eritreans were already in Ethiopia and Sudan. But 2015 saw these already serious figures skyrocket. Many, until late 2015, were also fleeing across the Red Sea to Yemen and Saudi Arabia.
Isayas’ primary bid for survival has been based on conflict with Ethiopia, to destroy the Government there in order to force a compromise which would restore trade from Ethiopia to the Red Sea via Eritrean ports. To achieve this objective, apart from the direct state-to-state conflict which Isayas instigated against Ethiopia in 1998, Eritrea backed numerous armed opposition groups inside Ethiopia.
One was the Tigré People’s Democratic Movement (TPDM), which the Isayas Government created, funded, trained, armed, and supported for the past 12 years. On Sept. 11, 2015, however, the TPDM had tired of Isayas and the failure of his endeavors, and fled, en masse, into Sudan and thence into Ethiopia.
Eritrean Army units were rushed to the border area, across the border from the Sudanese town of Omhajer and close to the Ethiopian border, and engaged the battalion-sized TPDM force (est. at around 700 men).
The TPDM forces, led by Molla Asgedom, completely destroyed the Eritrean Army force near Omhajer and later at Seq al-Ketir, before heading to Hamdait (all in the Sudan). The TPDM force also suffered heavy casualties, but crossed into northern Ethiopia to be greeted by Ethiopian Government forces at Humera and Dima towns. However, some TPDM groups were still in Sudan, and in the hands of Sudanese security forces.
What is significant is that the TPDM was one of Isayas’ most trusted military units, and part of the key to his security. The Eritrean Army is overwhelmingly dependent on forced conscription, for indefinite periods, of unwilling Eritreans, one of the major causes of the outflow of Eritrean men as refugees. Significantly, Eritrean State media has mentioned nothing of the defection of the TPDM.
The ongoing collapse of Eritrea parallels the decline in support from some of its foreign sponsors, particularly Egypt and Libya, which were anxious — during earlier governments — to dominate the Red Sea and to ensure that Ethiopia, a former Red Sea power, was unable to dominate the mouth of the Red Sea.
Now, Libya is in disarray, and the Egyptian government of President Abdul Fatah al-Sisi is committed to a strong working relationship with Ethiopia on a range of issues, particularly the Nile water usage. Egyptian Coptic Pope Tawadros II agreed on Aug. 25 to mediate a “convergence” of views between Ethiopia and Egypt on Nile water use, particularly significant because Egypt is deploying its Christian leader to meet with the predominantly Christian Ethiopian Government.
Thus Eritrea has lost its sponsors, other than Qatar — which supports the Muslim Brotherhood and is therefore seeking ways to maneuver against Egypt — and possibly Iran and Turkey, which are seeking leverage in the Red Sea/Horn region. Iran and Turkey, however, are rivals for influence in the region.
President Isayas, in poor health in recent years, has, as part of his posture, hinted at a reunion or confederation with Ethiopia, of which Eritrea was historically a significant part.  Ethiopia could not consider this while Isayas remained at Eritrea’s helm

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